Developing a Social Media Strategy for your Organization
Here are some things to consider when mapping out your social media strategy.
What is the mission of your social media efforts?
This could be as simple as "create a presence" to something more specific, like "engage our clients in a dialogue" or "discover the needs of our community."
What platforms will you choose and how will they connect to each other?
According to Social Media Examiner’s 2010 report, by a long shot, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs were the top four social media tools used by marketers; however, the platforms you choose are going to be completely dependent on your mission. Also, don't overlook how the platforms can interconnect with each other. Twitter can drive your Facebook status, YouTube videos can be embedded in a blog, Posterous can take content and send it to a variety of outlets...there are a wide range of possibilities.
How will you feed your content stream?
This includes both the type of content you want to provide and how that content is captured and produced. Social media lives and dies by current postings. If the content on your outlets of choice becomes stale, you will lose your audience. (Is the reason most broadcast channels now have new shows in the summer rather than relying on re-runs.) In addition, you have to have content that will connect with the people you want to reach. There will likely be some trial and error in this as you experiment to learn what connects in your context. If possible, you will want content to come from a variety of sources. While one person may be able to oversee your social media efforts, it is almost impossible for a single person to create all of the content needed to feed the stream.
Determine frequency of posting.
While personally, you may use social media in fits and spurts, social media for organizations is more effective if there is a rhythm to the posting. For example, a blog could be daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Twitter is more effective daily, yet you can "over-tweet" and have people unfollow you because you load up their stream. Think about frequency in terms of the context of your mission then set an internal structure that allows you to produce content on that timeline.
How will you brand?
Customizing your social media outlets to reflect your visual branding is an opportunity that shouldn't be missed. While the options won't be extensive as on a website, you can usually modify colors or add images that make your social media platforms your own.
How will you monitor the feeds?
Because the social media outlets are designed to invite feedback, an important part of your social media efforts will be monitoring the streams. Unlike a website that you can "set and forget" for a certain amount of time, comments and posts need to be engaged and responded to in as close to real-time as possible. Just as you would never put a phone system in and never answer it, you can't set up a social media presence without communicating with the people on the other end. As with the content stream, this effort will likely require more than a single person to truly be effective. (And to prevent burnout.) You should also determine up front how you will respond to negative comments. Will they be removed or simply responded to?
How will you promote your social media presence?
Once your social media presence is in place, all you have to do is promote it. This might be something as simple as adding links to your website or as targeted as purchasing an ad to promote your site on Facebook or proactively following all of the "Twitterers" who engage on the topics you care about.
While setting up a social media presence isn't difficult, effectively leveraging the tools to meet mission takes time, creativity and dedicated people with a passion to connect.